Ken Ludwig is best known for high-octane farces such as Lend Me a Tenor, but in Dear Jack, Dear Louise, he goes for tender epistolary romance. Based on the love-affair-via-letters story of how his parents met in World War II (but wholly imagined by Ludwig, as his mother destroyed the letters before her death), this Northlight production, directed by Jessica Fisch and starring Casey Hoekstra and Sarah Price, is a sweet exercise in nostalgia with just enough bite to keep anything saccharine at bay. Introduced long-distance by their fathers—Jewish immigrants who knew each other in the “old country” who settled in Pennsylvania and Brooklyn—Jack and Louise are in some ways a study in contrasts. He’s the steady-as-she-goes Army doctor, she’s the aspiring actor-dancer whose boarding-house life in New York feels like a lost subplot from Stage Door. Price’s demeanor reminds me of Rosalind Russell—sharp wit with screwball undertones. (At one point, she sardonically defines “avant garde” as “The stage was dark and we spoke with Hungarian accents.”) Hoekstra’s earnestness as Jack is leavened with ironic observation, darkening as the war drags on and the casualties mount.
Dear Jack, Dear Louise
Through 8/7: Wed 1 and 7:30 PM, Thu 7:30 PM, Fri 8 PM, Sat 2:30 and 8 PM, Sun 2:30 PM; also Tue 7/26, 7:30 PM and Sun 7/24, 7 PM; touch tour, open captioning, and audio described performance Sat 7/30, 2:30 PM; relaxed performance for individuals with sensory sensitivity Sun 7/24, 7 PM; Northlight Theatre, North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, 847-673-6300, northlight.org, $30-$89 ($15 students, subject to availability)
The wartime background means that there’s both urgency and doubt in their interactions; she feels guilty about complaining about her career, and he isn’t quite the straight arrow he appears at first. As the show progresses, we feel how much they’ve invested in each other, and even knowing how it ends, there are moments that we draw in our breath, rooting for it all to come out OK.